Managing Conflicts – What To Do

If you have a conflict of interest or a conflict of commitment, as part of completing your Conflict of Interest/Commitment Declaration online in the RISE database, your conflict may be “managed” or “prohibited” – see below for definitions.

Managed means agreeing to a list of actions, limits and timelines to reduce or get rid of any negative impact of a conflict. For example, if you are teaching a class that will include your nephew then blind marking of all exams and papers would be one action to include. These actions and timelines are called a management plan and you can find examples at the bottom of this page. You are encouraged to talk to your reviewer about any conflicts and discuss what steps are needed in a management plan. Your reviewer will be your department head or, in smaller faculties, the associate dean of research.

Prohibited means you will not be allowed to take part in any activities that are part of the conflict. You are encouraged to talk to your reviewer about any conflicts and discuss any conflict. Your reviewer will be your department head or, in smaller faculties, the associate dean of research.

Conflicts of Interest are of three types:

  • Conflicts of interest that are approved without a management plan because they are insignificant. For example, a gift worth $10 as the university policy says a gift must be declared if worth $500 or more.
  • Conflicts of interest that are approved subject to a management plan which is a list of actions, limits and timelines to reduce or get rid of any negative impact of a conflict. For example, your niece must take a course with you next term as no other option exists for her.
  • Conflicts of interest that are prohibited because they are significant and there is no way to reduce their negative impact.

Conflicts of Commitment are approved if: 1) they have offsetting benefits to UBC or 2) they are not significant. An example of 1) is a professor’s book is being made into a documentary taking her away from the university for more than 52 days in one year. The benefits of the documentary to UBC might be significant enough to agree to the time away.

Management Plans

“Managed” means agreeing to a list of actions, limits and timelines to reduce or get rid of any negative impact of a conflict. These actions, limits and timelines are called a management plan.

Who drafts the management plan?

You should work with your reviewer to draft a management plan. Your reviewer will be your department head or, in smaller faculties, the associate dean of research. If you and your reviewer are not able to agree on a management plan, either of you can: 1) ask the next level up, usually a Dean, to help 2) ask UBC’s Conflict of Interest Committee to make recommendations or a final decision and, 3) ask UBC’s Conflict of Interest Administrator for advice. You can reach the Conflict of Interest Administrator at conflict.of.interest@ubc.ca or 604-822-8623. The Conflict of Interest Administrator can also tell you how to have a declaration reviewed by the Conflict of Interest Committee.

What to include in a management plan:

  • Who will be affected (students? graduate students? other faculty? staff? research subjects?) What will be done, by you or others, to reduce or get rid of any negative impact (real or perceived) on them? How will you tell them about the conflict?
  • Who else needs to be told, where and when e.g. committees you sit on
  • What is the timing involved. Is the conflict on-going or short-term?
  • How often will you need to update your Conflict of Interest/Commitment Declaration online in the RISE database
  • When will you report to the reviewer (your division/department head) on the actions taken and the results, if any
  • Is an informal third-party (like an ombudsperson) needed so anyone affected by the conflict has a third party to talk to? If yes, who will that person be?

And include what you are already doing as part of ethical behavior such as blind marking of all exams or disclosing on all grant applications your consulting work with company XYZ.

Management Plan Examples – you would add all actions, limits, timelines, details, etc relevant to your conflict to your Conflict of Interest/Commitment Declaration.

Faculty Members and Family – Conflict of Interest Guidelines

Assigning Your Own Textbook to Students

Nephew/Niece/Daughter/Son/Someone I Know Well must take my course

Volunteer work as part of course work in an organization where you work/volunteer/sit on a board or committee

A philanthropist is funding a documentary based on your area of expertise. Because of your background, you have a key role in making the documentary

Spouses or Partners Who Evaluate the Same Graduate Student

Nephew/Niece/Daughter/Son/Someone I Know Well must take my course
There will be two key issues. One, the integrity of grades and two, classroom experience for the person you know and others in the class. The first, integrity of grades, will likely be easiest to resolve. The second, classroom experience, may be more demanding.

Some ideas:

“Blind” grade all exams and papers. The cover page of each only shows student id number. If you have some concerns you will recognize a student number, have a 3rd party receive all papers/exams and cover all identifying information with heavy paper. Return papers/exams to them after marking and they remove the cover and distribute grades.

Split grading of any exams/papers. You do half of the class and someone else grades the other half such as a TA or another professor. This may mean that this class has a TA only for this year/term.

If group work or class work is what is graded, you may need to have a TA (or TAs depending on the size of the class) and assign the person you know to a group you do not evaluate. Give TAs clear direction.

The issue of classroom interaction is harder as the person you know may feel shy or other students may feel you are being too hard or too easy on them. Consider a discussion with your department head/ dean about appointing a neutral 3rd party that students are encouraged to go to if in-class experience feels like it is compromising their learning. If this feels too much right now, consider discussing it, agreeing who it will be and having such a person ready should they be needed.

As well, encourage the student you know to discuss this issue with Advising in their faculty as they may have ideas.

Volunteer work as part of course work in an organization where you work/volunteer/sit on a board or committee

If you want students to do volunteer work as part of course work, the ideal:

  • Provide a list of NGOs students are free to choose from.
  • Welcome additions to the list of NGOs based on agreed criteria.
  • Ideally, do not include the NGO where you work/volunteer/sit on a board in the list of options for students.
  • Require that each NGO have a staff member who oversees the volunteer work and signs off on time worked, tasks done, etc. Make sure you are not part of this assessment and approval.
  • If a student is volunteering at the same NGO as you, have tasks/positions that are separate so you are not supervising or appraising the student’s NGO work.
  • If you evaluate the NGO work of all students, make sure the evaluation day/time is clearly separated for all students including any at the NGO where you volunteer.

A philanthropist is funding a documentary based on your area of expertise. Because of your background, you have a key role in making the documentary and not just a consulting role. You work on the documentary on your own time and you have invited students to volunteer in many roles. The philanthropist is a large donor at UBC and is funding other projects in your faculty.

  • Confirm the money for the documentary is coming directly to you and not through UBC
  • You cannot use any UBC resources OR if you use:

Space and Equipment – Any space you rent or equipment you use that belongs to UBC must be paid for at market rates. It would be wise to arrange an agreement for each such use/rental just as UBC would with any outside organization.

Students – here is the most dangerous piece. What if a student of yours works on the documentary and has a clash with you. Then, the student gets a (deserved) poor mark but appeals saying it was the clash on the documentary that resulted in getting the poor mark.

What if a student is hurt while working on the documentary and sues UBC. Options include:

1) do not use any students (grad or undergrad) on the documentary.

2) use students but only those you are not teaching.

3) use students and explain to them the separation of the documentary from your role as professor. This would include that any role they have in the documentary will not be taken into account in their courses and any course marks will not be influenced by participation (or lack of such) in the documentary. AND have any student working on the documentary sign a waiver explaining the separation of documentary and course work, and the separation of the company making the documentary and UBC.

  • Faculty and staff should be told of the two roles you have – documentary maker and professor – and given suggestions what to do if they are unsure of how to handle something that mixes the two roles. Talk to the Department Head or Dean first? Talk to their supervisor first?
  • In all publications and public discussions where the documentary might be referred to, disclose the philanthropist has funded the documentary.
  • If the philanthropist is also funding any part of your faculty work, disclose both in all publications and public discussions. Include any actions UBC has taken to protect your scholarly integrity.
  • Whenever your two roles – documentary maker and professor –might cross, explain the two roles in all publications and public discussions and state which role you are speaking/writing from at the time.
  • And, update your declaration as soon as the documentary is finished and remove these details.

 

 

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